Male alpacas can be boisterous with one another, which can sometimes lead to exhaustion, stress and injury. Therefore, it is common to castrate (remove the testicles from) male alpacas, that will not be used for breeding later on, to help reduce any overzealous behaviour. Castrated alpacas are known as geldings.
How can I tell if my alpacas have been fighting?
If your alpacas have been fighting, you may see signs such as 'spitty mouth' (see the next paragraph for what this means), cuts or bleeding, screaming behaviour, stiffness or reluctance/unease at being together as a group.
My alpaca’s mouth has dropped - has my alpaca had a stroke?!
'Has my alpaca had a stroke?' is usually the first question that springs to a newbie alpaca keeper’s mind when they see what we refer to as ‘spitty mouth’. The bottom lip drops away from the mouth and gums and their mouth is usually slightly parted and can be accompanied by drooling. This occurs as a result of stress which can be caused by fighting with another alpaca, being chased or being subject to handling they are not comfortable with. It is thought that spitty mouth is a mechanism that prevents the alpaca from being able to continue spitting for prolonged periods. The good news is that after 10 to 15 minutes, the lip should move back into place and your alpaca will look normal once again (but if it has not improved within that time, call the vet).
Will castrating my alpacas stop them fighting?
In theory, castrating an alpaca may help to reduce fighting behaviour, but this is not guaranteed to work for every alpaca. It will take a few months for the hormones to completely work their way out of the system, so it may take a while before you see the true effects of the castration. If you find that your alpacas have still not calmed down and reduced fighting behaviour after 6 months, you may just have alpacas that don’t get on and may need to reassess your housing and grouping arrangements.
Things you can do (besides castration) to reduce fighting behaviour in your alpacas
Do not house male and female alpacas together (with the exception of cria up to 10 months of age)
Ensure there is ample trough and feeding room as well as ample hay racks
Ensure there is ample shelter space and give them more room if they want to get away from one another
Do not put young males in with fully grown, intact males, as the older males may bully and exhaust the young alpaca
What age should my alpacas be castrated?
Alpacas are usually castrated around 18 months of age. This ensures that they are well grown before the procedure and their growth and development will not be impacted. Males are not usually effective until they are around 3 years old, when the penis has become fully detached from the prepuce (foreskin). However, this can sometimes occur sooner; therefore, young males should be separated from females when they reach 10 months of age to prevent accidental pregnancies.
What time of year should castration of alpacas occur?
Castration of an alpaca should take place in late Autumn or Winter time to avoid flystrike which occurs when flies lay eggs in a wound.
How is castration carried out in alpacas?
Castration in alpacas can be carried out whilst your alpaca is standing provided that they are quiet and easily handled. Local anaesthetic is applied to the area by the vet, who then shaves and sterilises the area with antimicrobial wash and iodine. Two small incisions (of around 2cm each) are made to release and discard the testicles. The incisions are usually left often so the wound can drain and heal. Antiseptic spray, such as Teramycin, is applied to prevent any infection. Alternatively, full sedation may be an option if your alpaca cannot be calmly handled. It recommended to keep the freshly castrated alpacas in a small pen or holding area for 24 hours to monitor their health and observe any side effects from the procedure, such as bleeding or swelling of the surgery site, difficulty with urination, fly activity or anything that would be deemed as unusual behaviour.
How much does it cost to castrate alpacas?
The price of castrating an alpaca will vary from vet to vet and will depend on whether you need part or full sedation, whether it is done in house or at your farm and how many alpacas you need castrating on the same day (multiple castrations carried out on the same day may also qualify for a discounted price), so it is best to contact your vet for an estimate.
Disclaimer: Fostings Alpacas are not a veterinarian body. Always consult your vet when considering if medical procedures are right for your herd.
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